Friday, June 10, 2016
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Irrational Man is the story of a philosophy professor who goes through an existential crisis where he goes into a relationship with one of his students. The film is mystery-drama that has Allen explore the world of existentialism where a man copes with the meaning of life as well as the ways of the world where he ponders what one do by a single act. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley, and Parker Posey. Irrational Man is a compelling and witty film from Woody Allen.
Set in a small college campus and town in Rhode Island, the film is a simple story of a troubled philosophy professor who is going through depression and an existential crisis where he befriends a student as they discuss the complexities of life. Yet, when they overhear a conversation about a woman’s custody battle and how unlikely she would get her children back due to a corrupt judge. Professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is suddenly urged to do something as the result would mark a change in his life and his relationship with student Jill Pollard (Emma Stone) where it becomes romantic. Yet, questions would emerge as it relates to his act but also many questions about morality and the way life works. Woody Allen’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Lucas’ own moral and existential dilemma but also the fact that he has become numb and sort of indifferent about what he’s doing.
With Pollard being one of his students in his summer tenure in philosophy, he is intrigued by her views where they would engage a lot in conversations. Pollard would fall for him, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley), though is aware of Lucas’ own reputation as well as the fact that teachers and students can’t go out with each other in the school. While Lucas would have an affair with another professor in Rita Richards (Parker Posey), he is drawn by Pollard as the film‘s narrative is told from their different perspective with the usage of voice-over narration to display their views and what are they thinking. Especially in the second act where Lucas do something as it relates to this woman he doesn’t even know as the result would give him meaning again. Even as Pollard is taken aback at first by his change in mood until news about what is going on in this small town emerges where Pollard learns some truth as she goes into a moral dilemma of her own. All of which plays into a third act that is about morality and what it means to live but also the fact that action can also have consequences.
Allen’s direction is quite simple in terms of not just the compositions but also in the fact that he creates a film that bears little ideas of style. Shot on location in Newport, Rhode Island, the film does have this ravishing tone in the way it presents this small New England college town where it is quite middle class but also very vibrant. While Allen uses some wide and medium shots to capture the beauty of the locations, he also in maintain some intimacy in the latter along with the close-ups in the way characters interact with one another. Allen also would create different shifts in tones where it starts off a little lighthearted despite Lucas’ dark mood and then have the second act be even more upbeat despite the act that Lucas would do that eventually gave him meaning. The tone would once again shift in the third act where it does become more of a drama but a drama that says a lot about morality and the ways of the world. Especially where Pollard who begins to question herself as she is confused on the ways of the world and where true happiness comes from. Allen reveals that there is a lot of flaws in that argument but also says a lot into the ways of the world and how people live no matter how complicated things can be. Overall, Allen creates an engaging yet whimsical film about existentialism and morality.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of the exteriors to the way some of the interiors are lit in day and night to play into its low-key yet colorful look. Editor Alisa Lepselter does nice work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with few bits of style as it plays into the drama and some of the mystery aspects in the film. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorator Jennifer Engel and art director Carl Sprague, does fantastic work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the campus and the hall of mirrors where Lucas and Pollard go to.
Costume designer Suzy Benzinger does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual in the way the characters look as it includes some of the stylish clothes that Pollard and Richards wear. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound as it is mostly natural to play into the places that all of the characters go to. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of playful jazz pieces along with a few classical cuts and a couple of contemporary pop pieces at a party that Lucas goes to.
The casting by Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto and Juliet Taylor is great as it include some notably small roles from Susan Poufar as a woman fighting for custody of her children that Lucas and Pollard would eavesdrop on, Sophie Von Haselberg as one of Pollard’s classmate in April, Ethan Phillips and Betsey Aidem as Jill’s parents, Kate McGonigle as another of Pollard’s friends in Ellie, and Tom Kemp as a custody case judge that Lucas would target. Jamie Blackley is superb as Pollard’s boyfriend Roy who doesn’t like hearing about Lucas as he feels neglected as well unappreciated for what he is trying to do for Pollard.
Parker Posey is fantastic as Rita Richards as a professor who is dealing with her own issues in her marriage as she would have an affair with Lucas only to feel slighted when he begins his relationship with Pollard. Emma Stone is brilliant as Jill Pollard as a philosophy student who would challenge Lucas about his views on the world while they would find similar ground and passions until she realizes the action he has done where she is confused as well as questioning about her own morality. Finally, there’s Joaquin Phoenix in an incredible performance as Abe Lucas as a philosophy professor who is filled with despair and indifference as he tries to find meaning in his life where he tries to find fulfillment until a moment where he listens to a conversation about a woman where he feels the need to act as it would give him a new lease on life.
Irrational Man is a marvelous film from Woody Allen that features top-notch performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, and Parker Posey. While it is a film that bears a lot of familiar territory that Allen has explored in other films, it does manage to say a lot about the way people are in the world as well as how they respond to certain things and their actions. In the end, Irrational Man is a remarkable film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra's Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - (Café Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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